Portugal: hills of sun-painted sadness.

Where I usually write, in front of an elder brazilian peppertree.

Not everyone has the honour of living in an award-winning country, or better yet, not everyone considers that an honour. I was born in a small parish with 110 inhabitants just outside Lisbon, and my youth was paved with finding small water streams among fabled stretching woodlands, watching my grandfather plant potatoes all the while leaning on our dogs and watching the verdant sunset sink. I look back fondly at those memories, and my circle of social life was restricted by those hundred familiar faces all into my teenage mists.

When I was a docile and sensitive boy, one thing was generally known, we were an enclave of the modern world, a tender collapse between edging western development and a deep connection to land, humility, poverty, and pain. In the yet-to-explore sacred and scarlet hills of Portugal, we roamed the sun-lands searching for an oasis that spawned the entire rectangle garden planted sea-side. We quested for a beauty that was already there, and after centuries of isolation and regret, we found a rooted longing for days that never came, for an evasive beauty that time did not look kindly upon.

Those were the days of yore, nowadays, the scopes have shifted. Portugal, now a growing and bursting experience of culture and history, the brand new Jurassic Park without deadly dinosaurs, conveniently docked at Europe’s lonely and serene edge, offers a way to mitigate the pains of modern existence at a manageable driving distance. As we now live among kind visitors and explorers, we listen to those praises of beauty. How sunny are our lands, how old our cities, how beautiful our forests and endless our beaches, and above all else, how deep is our sadness.

As I write this humble prose, I can listen to goldcrests chirping atop that peppertree, and at 20:00 there is still clarity outside, the sun still faintly shines, as it tends to. Faint yet enchanting gypsy music booms at the distance, I can still pick apart the variations of the low-voiced man who is singing to the rhythm. I remember being young, the sun shone its golden-hue with all the same brightness, the buildings and asphalt roads vibrated to the heat, the summer cicadas already knew the ancient lyricists before any of us did, and at the sidewalks of this beautiful block of candour we’ve inhabited, I was already sad, already longing. We all were, and we still are.

It’s difficult to pinpoint why we exist this way, but I’ve convinced myself that it’s only a natural consequence of this paradise we’ve created. In these hills where marine order takes form of beautiful composure, what other sadness could we compare it to than our own inner demons.

And that matching pendulum of innate sadness strikes harder every time, painting Portugal more beautiful and we, sadder, abandoned at a seaside beauty created to evaporate.

And Lisbon, my current home, the city-port of poetry and fado, only seems to reflect that ever-so-strongly, as it tries to grip it’s fainting identity while this bombardment of globalised exposition occurs, which it has always done. The only city where walls still cry, those colourful walls that close upon our dreams and limit our solitaire nightmares.



João Maria.



Published by


A tick clinging to the bristles of a purple boar.

28 thoughts on “Portugal: hills of sun-painted sadness.”

  1. What a wonderfully evocative piece about Portugal. I love so much of what you’ve written but especially this: “I remember being young, the sun shone its golden-hue with all the same brightness, the buildings and asphalt roads vibrated to the heat, the summer cicadas already knew the ancient lyricists before any of us did, and at the sidewalks of this beautiful block of candour we’ve inhabited, I was already sad, already longing. We all were, and we still are.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, at times these decent lines just bleed out of me, I wish I had a way of always being that beautifully clear in poetry.
      Thank you so much Cathy, I’ve been exploring your blog and it almost gives me a short breath of the boundless beauty beyond my borders, both inner and exterior. You’re a jewel and this comment is an honour.


    1. Thank you Annesha, I don’t know if you meant to comment twice, but both comments melt my heart. It is of deep-bound gratitude that I feel comments like these, and the fact you felt it’s beauty means writting it was every bit worthier.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Cath, it attempts to mix that idyllic feeling of Portugal and it’s earthbound consequences. I endlessly appreciate your reading and attention.


  2. I really enjoy reading text that is so much infused with the love of one’s own homeland. It’s a deep kind of affection that can spawn a variety of really moving meditations.
    I also appreciate how you somehow chase the musicality of rhyme or alliteration even while writing prose. It is a kind of research that has become increasingly difficult to find in contemporary authors and, as much as I respect the evolution of literature in this sense, I can’t help but think that there’s a mastery of form which is paramount to a writer’s development.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a natural symptom of my inclination to poetic production, almost as if it’s somehow harder to collect my thoughts without the use of some lyricism.
      I agree with you immensely, and I’ve stuggled with it lately, as my poetry tugs between a more modern, keenless and shapeless form, and elder trovadours and bards. There is beauty in all of it, but the loss of form in literature has been taking a big toll, not only in our shifting sensibilities towards the vague and imprecise, but also a “watering down” of form as an integral part of a piece, fifty/fifty with content. How we convey is just as important as what we convey, and that artistic structure which held literature within bounds for so long is finally being broken.

      The replacement, however, is often short-coming and odd, as our mental communication can’t seem to accompany the phasing out of order.

      This comment meant the world to me, sorry for the wall of text, I get a bit carried away. Thank you so much.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I could talk about this kind of stuff all day, please feel free to get carried away.
        You were really quick to explain flawlessly what I was hinting at in my previous comment. “Watered-down poetry” might just be the perfect expression for the usual product of contemporary poetry. Though, again, I do understand why art took this direction ever since the start of the 20th century, and I do believe that this new sensibility is “cooking” inside the hearts of those future poets who are going to write the future masterpieces (I mean, it already bore its fruit: for example – and this is what I usually refer to when having this sort of conversation – T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land”). But I’m pretty sure that, as it happens most of the times, these poets will have been educated to form in their previous years.
        So, great job at writing consistently both in your first language and in English, with that attention to expression that we are talking about here. Work like this is the sort that really might end up somewhere good.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Again, we are in full agreement, although I don’t expect my work to take such great heights.
        At this tender age of twenty-two, I’m given to fine-crafting my compositions so that one given day, perhaps decades from now, I might write pieces that I can truly feel proud of. I don’t know if that day will come, and part of me wishes that it doesn’t, so I can keep expanding endlessly.
        In short, I’m very far from being a poet, but every bit of the path is one I’m thankful for.
        Any future, to the future belongs.

        Again Tadzio, thank you so much for this rich interaction, you are welcome to speak your sharp mind on my blog anytime you want, and I’m sure to scoop yours better as well!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks for the invitation, Johnny. Being myself someone who writes and 400 poems in, I was finally feeling the need to share. I’m glad I stumbled on your blog right off the bat – since mine can’t be more than a couple weeks old. I’ll be sure to stick around.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. i can just imagine the idyll of youth in your small parish, the rich joy of your surroundings as a child. i wish i could have had a youth so full of the wonders of this sort. as such, i had to find this kind of beauty in books written by the authors of my mother’s youth–those brits who had a way with description (enid blyton, e. nesbit, edward eager, and others who escape my memory) and the possessed hopeful eyes of children. i hope that you are able to retreat to this beauty even as you continue to explore the poetry and sophistication of the city of lisbon. are you planning on writing more prose here as well? this was well done, johnny!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My sweet Mariah! Recently I had 1000 comments in my humble blog, and I saw that you were the top commenter of all time. You’ve made me such a happy kid, truly.
      Its hard to explain my youth, I was raised entirely by my granddad (the potato man), and he died in a freak train accident when I was about 11. Everything from that point on was just grimmer, darker, less enchanting.
      I do hold on tighly to those memories though.

      I don’t know, I wrote this on the fly right in the post editor, I didn’t have many plans when I started, I just felt like it. I’m very happy that you like it though, maybe I should invest a bit more time in prose.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. dear johnny, i can’t believe i am at the top of your comments list (congratulations on reaching 1000!). i don’t have time to comment on all of the marvelous work i have read on wordpress, but i feel that if i’m truly enjoying a person’s work and they’re putting it out here to share, the least i can do is give some acknowledgement and thoughtful encouragement. i’m happy you’re happy!
        and yes, i do recommend you try some more prose–the poetic language you use gives a pleasant feel, and makes it lovely to read aloud as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you so much, it has truly been a treasured experience to share this exposing activity with you, your heart is golden.
        I will try, although I very rarely have the necessary mindset for prose, if I’m perfectionist with poetry, prose is just a mine field of anxiety, haha.


      3. oh, and one more thing: in spite of your feeling that the world appeared less enchanting after your granddad’s death, i can assure you that your writing (both poetry and now prose), even in its darkest moments, has a spark of enchantment and wonder as i read it. but perhaps that’s just me.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I don’t know, I’ve often wondered how impactful that experience was to my general development, both personal and artistic. It’s hard to understand the scope of these things, loss is a powerful feeling, one of the few versatile enough to resist Time as a healing force.
        Loss and abandonment, I usually say, are the two deepest versions of sadness one can endure, and I’ve been through both, so it’s hard to figure out which is which.
        Thank you though, as always, you are a sweetheart.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow , I’ve heard a great deal about Portugal , but never been there physically.So
    I thank you for having taken me on an adventure in spirit. You must be really proud of your talent and the unique things that inspire you to write.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Nathania, I’m actually not very proud of my talent, haha. This piece, however, I’m strangely proud of.
      It paints my homeland exactly how it stands, beautiful, sad, and filling, incredibly filling.


  5. Oh come now , talent is money , literally , and you’ll have to admit that you have got it at one point or another in life. It , in a way , defines you.
    If you fall from great heights and people may have forgotten about you or become disappointed in you , that’s when you rise rich in it , fully awed by it , and it redefines you.

    Softness , sensitivity , humility are all talents too that can make you notable. But don’t be inferior about them , let them shine. You’ve written beautifully about your homeland.
    Don’t stop there , write more about the things you love and share it with others to give them and you great joy. Best wishes !

    Liked by 1 person

  6. thank you Johnny for this lovely post. And I love the view where you do your writing. Its beautiful. Please keep writing more about your beautiful country. I wonder if there is still potatoes grown around your area..
    Either-way, I love this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Dew!

      Unfortunately, the plantation fields where my grandfather used to cultivate have since been given back to Nature after his passing. Now, its overgrowth, and in a way, it makes it all the more beautiful.
      Thank you so much for reading.


      1. oh sad to hear about ur grandpa and that the fields of cultivation are no more.. i love planting and watching them grow and then harvest.. please do keep up writing similar posts.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, nothing to be sad about!
        He planted for the same reasons you did, he had no commercial interest in the fields. He was a truck driver by profession, I come from a poor rural family of central Portugal.
        He would not mind that his fields fell into overgrowth, because he loved nature, and so did we. Now, they are home to little critters and wildlife, and last year my dad and I planted some oak trees and we are expecting them to take root. Soon enough, it will make a pretty landscape.
        Life is a beautiful thing in all its forms, so no need to be sad, only thankful we get to experience all of it.
        And again Dew, thank you, and your presence and encouragement is ever-appreciated


      3. yeah.. its lovely your grand dad was a nature person.. I think I have got that from my grand parents too.. but now I am confined to a small living space in the city here in colombo but enjoy looking at ways to grow things..
        I sure will remember to look for those oak trees you planted. Yes. I could not disagree. Life is beautiful in many ways.. its how we make it happen. thank you for the encouragement too.. God bless.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to dewofmay Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.